New York – Decades after one of the leading Posek of our generation proclaimed white veal unacceptable for consumption by Orthodox Jews comes a possible change on that stance given emerging trends in the veal industry.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein raised a halachic question about white veal in 1982, saying that the process of raising calves to produce white veal was so harsh it would qualify as tzaar baalei chayim and would, therefore, not be permitted, prompting many of Rav Moshe’s followers to give up white veal entirely.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, veal calves were typically raised in crates so narrow that they were unable to turn around, their necks further restrained to limit their movements.
AnimalRights.About.com further describes that veal calves, generally separated from their mothers at a very young age in an effort to keep up the mothers’ milk supply, were fed a synthetic iron-free formula in an effort to keep them anemic, giving their meat a more attractive white color.
Among those who haven’t eaten veal in 33 years is Rav Moshe’s son in law, Rabbi Dr. Moshe Dovid Tendler, whose research played an important role in the original teshuva brought down in Igros Moshe. With recent efforts by social activists and lawmakers to make the veal industry more humane, Rabbi Dr. Tendler revisited the white veal issue, with a Chol Hamoed visit to the Bierig Brothers veal plant in Vineland, New Jersey, certified kosher by the Star-K.
In an interview with VIN News, Rabbi Dr. Tendler said that recent movement to allow calves more movement have resulted in recommendations that give the animals the ability to walk freely within a confined space.
“If that regulation will become standard in the veal raising industry, that will remove a major objection of tzaar baalei chaim,” Rabbi Dr. Tendler told VIN News.
Confinement in crates was only one of Rav Moshe’s concerns regarding veal.
“The second issue is the fact that the animal is taken away from its mother after birth, but in many places that practice is also being modified so that calves can spend the first two weeks of their lives with the mother, nursing and so on.”
In 2007, the American Veal Association announced its plan to phase out the use of crates in raising calves by 2017, in an effort to control disease, reduce the possibility of physical injury in calves and to provide greater level of attention to the animals. Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Ohio and Rhode Island already ban the use of veal crates, with active legislation currently pending in both New York and Massachusetts.
The veal industry hopes that the more humane practices will bring a resurgence in veal consumption. A New York Times report revealed that Americans in the 1950s and 1960s ate approximately four pounds of veal per person annually. But once pictures of veal calves restrained in crates emerged in the 1980s, veal consumption dropped dramatically and today the per person consumption of veal averages just half a pound.
“In my youth, the sign of Yom Tov was that veal was served,” recalled Rabbi Dr. Tendler. “We gave it up once I found out how it was being raised.”
Donna Moening, executive director of the American Veal Association in Gladstone Missouri, said that the veal industry has moved to respond to consumer demand
“The health and well being of the animals has always been first and foremost,” noted Moening. “If people want to see the calves in group pens, then that becomes a priority to us.”
The new guidelines are a positive development, according to Rabbi Dr. Tendler, who has high hopes for them being further adopted on an even larger scale, which could possibly remove the reasons for Rav Moshe’s ban.
“There are now regulations or recommendations that will not allow animals to be raised in a cage the way they were in the past,” said Rabbi Dr. Tendler. “They have to give them more room, using enclosed stables that ten or twenty animals that can walk around in, but that is not yet being widely practiced. If people want to have a mitzvah they could write a little note to the Department of Agriculture and inform them of their interest and ask them to keep us apprised of conditions in the veal industry. Effort is being made on the part of the government to improve the lifestyle of the animal until we take its life in order to eat veal chops.”
White veal, however, will likely become a thing of the past, said Rabbi Dr. Tendler.
“Once you liberalize the care of the animal the meat will no longer be as white,” observed Rabbi Dr. Tendler. “It seems that people are insisting on white veal and are willing to pay a premium price. Why? I haven’t the slightest idea.”
“We were happy Rabbi Tendler was very pleased with the STAR K kashrys program at Bierig brothers” said Rabbi Zvi Holland Kashrut Administrator for the STAR-K.